MadMike's 1973 Z28 Camaro
MadMike's 1973 Z28

Attention Kmart shoppers - while it doesn't look like it - this thing is pretty fxxkin screwed up  

Click either picture to view full size
Above : Left - View as obtained on Nov 1997. Right - View as of August 2000.
Jump to: My 73's specs | Photos | Current Status | Restoration Plan (shot to hell) | Background & Restoration Story

I'm trying to clean this page up so it's easier to see what's going on with this car, and make the page easier to read. I'm pushing all the "background" crap down below. It shows my (lack of) thought process for the past couple years. Now, fortunantly, I've got a better plan on what's going on, how I'll use the car, and how I'll put it together. Plus, I'm putting it together right now. So.....

I want to go drag racing. It became clear that my current 468 cubic inch engine shouldn't be reinstalled into my 80Z28. I also want a nifty older car like my old 1970 RS. Plus I wanted the 4 speed. Which was why I bought the 1973 Z28 in the 1st place.

I can't afford to have 15 cars (and have them all nice). I sold my 71 Z28 and the 72 RS/SS both of which were supposed to be the drag car.

My 1973 Z28 will be my drag car. Originally, I thought that my 468 would be undrivable on the street, but I've run across a couple people who can run 9's and they're street legal, so while I'll probably only be in the low 11's or possibly into the 10's - I should be able to occasionally take this bitch for a spin around town....

MadMike's bummin', it must be another pre-midlife crisis
In 1986 I had the 1980 Z28 which was my daily driver. More often than not, it was blown up or not working for one reason or another. My friend at work had a 1970 RS Camaro and I asked him if I could buy it. He said "No". Three weeks later he said he was selling it and asked if I wanted to buy it and I said "HELL YA!" so I went to the credit union and got $3000 and bought it. This car was awesome. Me and my (future) wife travelled around it in, it was an excellent commuter car, it was FAST AS HELL and it was reliable, which for a performance machine was surprising to me. Anyway, I put 20,000 miles on the car in one year. One day me and the cars previous owner were hanging out at a local cruise area and some kid SMASHED INTO MY RALLY SPORT! To make a long story short, I still had the 1980 Z28, the fellow who smashed my car up paid me $2500 cash for the damage, I was getting married soon and I was buying a house, so I decided to "go normal". I offered the car for sale smashed up, for $1500. I was paid that in cash before the ad ran in the newspaper then had to fend off a non-stop ringing phone for 3 more days saying "It's sold". I used some of the money to buy a POS 1980 Citation to get around and paid bills with the rest of the money.

Over time - actually while the car was backing out of the driveway, I started missing the car. (YOU IDIOT, WHY DID YOU SELL THAT CAR? YOU COULDA FIXED IT!)

Fast forward to 1996. I really really want a nice old car like I had. It needs to be special, not just an old Camaro, but a Z28, RS or SS... plus it had to have a 4 speed. I was missing banging gears. GOOD GOLLY - have you seen the entry price on these cars nowadays? I wish I didn't sell my RS back in 1987. I started my search.

The deal of the century!
Summer, 1997: An ad comes over internet and into my mailbox. Someone knows someone else who knows some fellow who is selling a 1973 Z28. I respond to the ad. A week later I get email back with a few details. I respond back again. "Give me more info, call me, I'll call you, what's going on? How much? What's in it?"

Mid-October: My phone rings. Some fellow from Charlotte is on the phone. He's asking me if I want to buy a 1973 Z28. "Ya, who's this? Where'd you come from? How do you know?". OH!!!! *You* are the guy who's actually selling the car.... his buddy who wanted the rock crusher transmission is the original poster of the message. The car really wasn't for sale at the time. Regardless... we talk for a while. Two days later take a quick road trip over to Charlotte and meet up with Gino and "Big John". There's the car. It looks solid. It's a real Z28. It needs some TLC but it's workable. We work up a deal. I tie up the car and lock up the deal with a couple bucks down as a "deposit". I'll be back to get the thing at my convinience.

A couple weeks go by and I'm getting anxious. Finally on November 1, 1997 everything falls into place. I load up the trailer onto my Suburban, and me and my buddy Nick head over to Charlotte. 4.5 hours later, we're at Gino's. We loaded the rolling portion of the Camaro onto the trailer. We stuffed the doors, nose and a seat inside the camaro. Put a bunch of heavy metal parts into the trunk, and the rest of the camaro (hood, fenders, interior, misc parts, bumpers, etc...) fit snuggly into the back of the suburban. We complete the deal, shake hands, and head back to Georgia with my new prize.

The end of the beginning - or the beginning of the end?
We towed the whole deal home in a driving thunderstorm and with no doors on the car, there was surprisingly little water inside the interior. We unloaded the car and parked it where it's going to sit for a while. I gave the car a closer inspection. Follow along while I restore this thing (and go broke, actually, get more broke).

Initial Inspection - What we got to work with
Did you ever notice that once _you_ actually own something, it doesn't look as good as when it's in someone elses garage? Anyway, I had given the car the once over in Charlotte and it looked good. I saw all the parts and pieces in the guys shed, they looked all there. The thing is a real Z. That was good enough for me.

Now it's in my yard. Aparently the previous-previous owner had some problems with the car. Not only did he explode his engine, but apparently with that hefty Muncie and 12 bolt he busted a u-joint... which tore up the floor when the driveshaft went nuts. This explains why there's a new exhaust (which has since rusted to dust) on the car too.... the previous exhaust probably got smashed up (not that it matters anymore). Anyway, of course the thing got scratched up real good during the delivery. There's more rust than I had originally saw, (no shit - really) but nothing major (except for the frame rails, which I noticed were hammered when I went and bought the car). The brake lines and fuel lines are messed up, the thing needs a complete rebuild and freshening. The interior is a yucky color, (brown) plus it's seen better days. The engine is GONE, but we knew that. The glass is all fine. The rug was shot, plus it got wet, so I pitched that into the driveway which allowed me to look real good at the floor. It's ok, no major holes, except for where the driveshaft did its thing (and where I had to cut the floor open everywhere to get to all the caged nuts that hold the suspension in).

I emptied out the suburban, stuffed the interior into the car, we hung the doors and fenders on the car and dropped the hood on top of that and tossed a car cover over the thing.

I sorted out the misc parts and pieces and put them into smaller boxes and stashed them into my spare room (which Laura has since tossed me out of). When you restore something, or work on any car over a period of time it's very important that you CLEARLY LABEL everything as it's disassembled. (of course I don't do this so I have shit all over the place and can't find anything when I need it).

My 1978 parts car will be helpfull too. A quick inspection showed I'll grab the wiper arms (hide-away style), the gas pedal, some sheet metal, door hinges, a drivers side bullet mirror, some braces that hold the radiator support to the subframe.... the stuff adds up if you don't have something. (and even if you have something, usually you'll want to buy a new one).

The Plan or the ultimate Goal
Since I have a TON of parts laying around putting the car together isn't going to be that bad a deal (read: expensive) (NOT!). For example: I have a 1971 350 in the Impala that's going into this car (not anymore). I just need to put the Z-bar pivit on and I'm set there. I need a clutch/pressure plate/flywheel. I need to restore the interior, to black. This will require seat covers. I'll do all the body work and spray the car white with black stripes.

I need to remove the 12 bolt/w 4.88 rear end and put it into my 1980 Big Block drag car. The '80 will give back a 10 bolt 4.11. This'll kill 2 birds with one stone and is one of the factors of why I pursued this deal. The 1980 needs the 12 bolt more than the 1973. The 2 other factors that solidified the deal was the M-22 Rock Crusher and the decent shape Z28 body.

(ed note: As you probably know by now - the "M22" was actually the original M21, which is cool. However, you will find that EVERY 4 speed muncie you come across will be a "Rock Crusher". Even the M22 I bought sight unseen over the net was an M20 - fortunantly I didn't get dicked pricewise. Check the code before buying something).

The detail work will be expensive and will have to wait, this is stuff like replacing the old emblems with new emblems, replacing all the weatherstrip, rebuilding the LT-1 engine (probably with the TPI setup)...

My goal is to get this thing safe, presentable and drivable for April 98, and "The Gathering".
(ed note: Here it is, September 30, and the thing is STILL up on jack stands.....)
(ed note: Here it is, November 26 - I better put the year in here - 1999, and it's still up on jack stands. I did bolt some tires onto it though).
Actually, what I'd like to do is get this car redone nice and fresh so I can use it, in combination with the 1990 Cavalier as my daily transportation. By doing this I can defer buying a brand new car like normal people do, and also avoid having healthy monthly car payments. Admittedly, restoring/repairing these cars isn't cheap, but a new or relatively new car costs around $10,000. I don't have that type of scratch laying around....

Now it's the end of August 99, and how times flies.... There's a 1973 350 from a Camaro sitting in the car. That block will stay with the car. My cavy will still be my daily driver, but the 74Z28 will be a daily driver as well with the automatic transmission, A/C... it's something my wife would be able to drive pretty easy. So, the 73Z28 is being set up with the focus on handling, quite possibly to the level of being competitive in SCCA Solo II autocrossing. I'm also going full out with the restoration, completely disassembling the thing. I have or am getting new everything for this car, which explains why it's still parked on jack stands. The details on what's happening will be contained below.

Blah blah blah....blah blah blah....

The Restoration Begins

Click this link to see the Restoration Plan. Of course this plan gets revised depending on which way the winds blowing.

Early November 1997
Protect the car, i.e. since it's gotta sit outside, I want to button it up so that the weather can't get in. Even though it's covered, I'll close it up.

Mid December 1997
Begin seriously planning restoration. Obtaining materials & supplies.
Do some "busy work". Disassembly, inspection.

OH BOY - Change of plans
While in the process of selling the 1979 Camaro I was showing the fellow the "305". I was 99% sure it was a 305, we checked the suffix code on the engine and then checked my database for the code "CKT". What? ... wait a minute. CKT is a 1972 LT-1 350 installed in Z/28's. WHOOPS. Needless to say, that engine is being tossed into the frame rails of my 1973 Z28 like right now, and the 350 (L-65) from the Impala is being installed into the '79 so it can be sold. I still can't believe it. I'll pull the oil pan off to see if the thing is a 4 bolt main motor. Wow. (it wasn't).

Mid March 1998
Well, I've been busting my balls. I just put the 10 bolt rear end in the car. The floor is really beat. One of the springs is broken. I'll need to steal a set of springs from a parts car and REinstall them. I tore the front end of the car off. The 1975 parts car is going to donate the whole steering/suspension system. I just need to get off my a$$ and go into the woods and start taking that apart. I'm going to try and pull the **350** (yippee) and drop it into the frame rails within a week.

Summer 1998
I've been tinkering with the car off and on. I got the front end stripped and I'm rebuilding it. I am now installing a TPI 305 engine into the frame rails for now. I'll rebuild the CKT 350 when I can afford to, but to get going in a short period of time, I'll go with the 305 TPI. This will also be a beneficial experiment in doing a TPI swap, plus all the injection stuff will be sorted out when I'm ready to drop in my 350. I've been doing a lot of cleaning and painting. Lots of detail work. This is why if you look at my "restoration plan" you'll notice nothing happens for a while, then all of a sudden a big spurt of activity happens. I'm just getting things lined up, and then knock out a pile of items very quickly. This is why restoring a car is very labor intensive. I really haven't spent much $$$ on the car so far (but that's coming), but I have a benefit of having many spare cars and parts to pillage if I need something.

I'm focusing on getting the drivetrain sorted out and ready to roll. In addition,
I'm getting the suspension done.
Then I'll attack the major body work.
Then I'll put the interior in.
This will allow me to get the car going in usable condition relatively quick like (considering my schedule... a couple months at the earliest. Just in time to park the car for the winter).

Fall 1998
I'm plugging away on the car in between other duties.
Redoing the suspension went as I expected. It was expensive (balljoints, bushings and labor was close to $300 for the front arms). The lower control arms are TIGHT and need to be muscled in. I busted a couple studs from the dust shields and the bolts need to be drilled out of the spindles. Another PITA. One of my subframe bushings, and most of my rear spring bolts broke, necessitated cutting open the floor to attack the bolt/nut assembly from top & bottom. The subframe bolt (under the drivers seat) broke the caged nut. I gotta spot weld the nut back to the floor and try and get the bolt out. I rounded off the nut on the drivers side rear spring, so I worked on, and got the passenger side spring out. Jegs took 3 weeks to deliver my traction bar bolts, so I had to wait on these before going to town on the rear of the car at least.

Cleaned up and POR'ing front suspension. Cleaned up & painted springs & swaybars.
Cleaning/POR'ing interior & exterior floor
Replaced subframe bushings with Polyurethane
Reinstalling front suspension: Control arms fitted with polyurethane bushings and Moog ball joints.
Replacing rear springs & installing Competition Engineering traction bars.
Installed Radiator Core support & bumper bracketry
Doing A TON of little detail stuff (cleaning bolts, brackets....)
Preparing body to be "color changed" (door jambs, stuff that's hard to paint when car is assembled). Also, stripped interior & exterior so I can paint car.
Obtained fresh M22 transmission (whoops, it was an M20, so I'll clean up & reuse the close ratio 4 speed, which turned out to be the original box), new GM performance parts clutch, flywheel.

I'll be blasting my wheels and painting them. I hope to have this done just as the suspension is finished up. Then my car will be off the jack stands, the bottom of the car will be done for a while (excluding trouble areas - heavy rust). And the car can roll. If I manage to print another stack of money, I'll spring for the steering components.

I want to repair and paint the nose sheet metal, doors, fenders & hood. All the bolt on stuff that can be shot in the garage. This in addition to painting the jambs and stuff on the car. Then I can put the whole car into the garage and finish painting the rest of the car.

I want to test fire the TPI engine, using the 89 IROC fuel tank and using the car as a test stand. Make sure the wiring is sorted out, and the engine is functional. I need a "TPI module" ($280) to fit into my stock fuel tank to feed the engine.

This outta be enough to last me until Santa comes.

January, 1999 - Santa came and went
I got some jeans & socks if yer interested. Anyway, I'm going to be getting this car in rolling condition and push it into my garage. The 83Z28 (with no windows) so graciously gave up its comfy spot in the garage so this can happen. Now I will be able to work on the car at night, when it's raining out, when it's 10 degrees out.... this'll help. Obviously, I should have done this a long time ago...

April 1999
I'm back to kicking butt on the restoration. Me and my partner Kacy bought a 1973 RS, and in order to facilitate getting my Z28 going, I'm going to grab a couple items to save time and headaches. I'm taking the 350 (L65) and giving back a 305. I'll keep the fuel injection, but in order to save time and trouble I'll fire the car up with the 350/2bbl. Check everything, then adapt the TPI as another project.

I'm going ape with my sand blaster. I'm preparing the car body for a color change. I've sprayed the door jambs white, and it just so happens the 73 RS we got was white and has nice doors on it. I took those out of the pile and gave back my orange doors. I'm spraying my front end and the trunk. I'm detailing some more items (steering/brakes). I'm blasting my muncie and will paint it (cast iron). I'll blast underneath the car, and blast the trunk. This way I can paint the trunk opening white, splatter-spray the trunk floor, install the trunk weatherstrip, and close the newly painted (white) trunk lid.

I'm blasting the wheels. Man, what a PITA.

I need to go into the attic and find the interior for this car. I need to check my seats. I'll try and get everything together so all I need to do is buy a rug.

It's been cleaning, blasting, cleaning, brushing, washing, cleaning.... then painting. A LOT of work. I'm in between primer coats on a pair of my wheels as I'm typing this.

My car is still up on jack stands. I don't want to jinx myself, but realistically, I can probably fire the car up within a few weeks and have the front end sheet metal on the car (bwahahahahaa....). In other news, I started working on the rear of the car too. Using the trunk area as a blasting bin (a stupid idea - I'll have sand falling out of my car for freekin YEARS). Well, there's a lot of bondo and rust on the rear 1/4 panels and trunk. I may see about replacing them.

June - 1999
I haven't touched the car in a couple months. If you've been reading along, you'll notice that just above this section I was blasting the rear of the car. Well... as the rear of the car FELL APART - I got "depressed" (aka pi$$ed off), so I went and worked on the 74 Z28 for a while (which is another story). Things are slow because of the Camaro biz, which takes priority over my toys. The big hangup now is getting the time to install the clutch/transmission. I'm going to have the transmission inspected, then we'll install it. I painted my wheels, but only put 2 coats of paint on them, which isn't enough, so I gotta redo them as well. I was all set to run off and have the rubber mounted on the rims, until I looked closely at the wheels and figured I should rework them. Once the transmission is installed, I can take the car off jack stands and move it around. But - I may be focusing on a customer car shortly.

Late Summer - 1999
I went on vaca, plus that above mentioned deal happened. I bought and immediately resold a 1971 Z28 to a friend. I just gotta put it together and he'll finish it up. This deal is a story in it's own right and can be found under the1971 Z28 restoration... since those cars parallel each other.

Tasks that are happening now are to paint the fenders and header panel. Plus do a little painting on the firewall. This way I can bolt all the sheet metal onto the car, including the hood. I still need to install the transmission. I haven't had it checked yet... I'm worried the input shaft is bent... so, I'll probably run it over to the transmission guy for inspection next week.

Once all the sheet metal is on the car, I can put together all the miscellaneous under hood items.

Hey, guess what? Since I changed my mind and decided to drag race the 1971 Z28, I'm not going to put the 468 into my 1980 Z28. And since the 1980 Z28 is close to being road worthy, I'm yanking the 350 from the 73Z28 and using it in the 1980 Z28. It's a good thing I never got around to installing the transmission into the 73Z28 or I'd be removing it again. I guess the way to focus on the 73Z is to get the body solid and painted, then I can install my interior while I either build another engine or buy one already running.

May 2000
Lot's of stuff is happening to my 73Z now. Since my 468 engine has 12.5:1 domed pistons, and my solid roller cam has a .714" lift... I thought it was smart to run the engine down to a guy who builds performance engines for a living and have him finish putting the engine together. That's where the engine is. It should be done in a month or so.

My M21 gearbox was inspected by a trans guy, and they found 1st/2nd gear had been recently replaced, but 3rd gear was not, and 3rd gear was close to being gone. If I hadn't had it fixed, it would have been gone the 1st time I shifted into 3rd gear. So, the transmission guy is repairing my M21. It should be done shortly.

Since this car is now the heavy drag car, I removed my 10 bolt out of the car so it can go back into my 80Z, and I'm removing my 12 bolt from the 80Z and putting it back into the 73Z.

I'm putting my drag springs from the 80Z into the 73Z. This is the front & rear springs. I'm going to have to put subframe connectors into this car as well.

I grabbed all the interior stuff for this car that I had stashed in the attic and stuffed it into the car. I also grabbed all the trim, lights, gauges and everything else I'll need for this car, and I'm putting it in. I'm taking out the broken dash, steering column and throttle pedal and throwing it out, and replacing it with unbroken parts.

I'm removing the steering gear, and putting a non-power steering gear box (from a 71 Z28) in its place. Then I'll install the steering linkage.

I have 2 sets of tires/wheels for the car... the factory 5 spoke wheels, or my drag tires. I'm not sure what set I want on the car (since the car is still sitting outside), but I can use either.

Stay tuned - I'm going to town!

August 2000
We got to swapping the suspension around.
Photos: Compressed drag spring | Installing spring & (Peter Brown's hands) | Front runner wheel installed
The rearend is sitting there waiting for the subframe connectors

View in August 2000

September 2000
The suspension is almost done. The car is now on the ground, off jackstands and able to roll around. I'm putting the steering and brake system together now.

December 2000
The car is parked in the garage. My 468 engine was finally finished up and it magically showed up and was dropped into the car late one night when nobody was paying attention. I'm in the process of finishing up the car and hopefully by early spring we'll be making some serious noise.

January 2001
Big news... The Atlanta F-Body Shootout is happening in March of this year. I'd like to get the car ready for the event. Some of my friends would also like to see me attend the event with this car so they're lending me a hand (BIGTIME)..... details to follow (see above). news flash - this didn't go according to plan.... the car sat around for a couple months.

Finally - he's getting that *uckin thing outta here....
The 1st time my 73Z has ever been on my own trailer - on it's way to Thunder Performance.

May 2001
Well, it's May already. Everything's up in the air. Hopefully next weekend we'll put the roll bar in. How long it'll sit around in the shop is anyones guess. Hopefully not long.

November 2001
Well, it's been long enough. This month we should finish putting the roll bar in, then I'm towing it back home so I can get back to working on it. Trying to work on the car with it being 40 miles away is close to impossible now.

In the process of getting fixed up.

December 2001
We finished the rollbar late sunday night (on the 2nd) and I towed it home around midnight. Finally, after close to a year it's back home and cozy in my garage. I'm doing the bodywork on it all this month. Hopefully it'll be stripped down and completely white by the end of the month. I'll also be able to assemble it, installing the emblems and lights, etc...

This is obviously NOT my car. It's Kacy Kellhoffers.

Last updated: 8/13/2000
Rewritten: 11/24/1999
Author: MadMike Maciolek
Email: [email protected]

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